Johnny Depp’s libel of Amber Heard was raised during a civil court hearing to determine whether Gabby Petito’s family can sue Brian Laundrie’s parents.
Ms. Petito’s parents, Joseph Petito and Nichole Schmidt, allege that Chris and Roberta Laundrie made a misleading statement through their attorney that their daughter was still alive when they knew their son Brian had already killed her.
Judge Hunter W Carroll brought the defamation ruling against Mr Depp, which was due to a statement made by his lawyer that Ms Heard’s abuse allegations were a “hoax”.
“Are we not responsible for the words we say, when we say them?” the judge asked during Wednesday’s hearing.
“Johnny Depp was just found civilly liable for defamation for what his lawyer said, right?”
At the core of Petito’s case is a September 16 statement issued by Laundrie’s attorney, Steve Bertolino, as search parties combed Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park for Petito.
“On behalf of the Laundrie family, we hope that the search for Ms. Petito is successful and that Ms. Petito is reunited with her family,” the statement read.
Ms. Petito’s parents allege that the Lavanderías knew where their daughter had been left and were actively helping their son evade law enforcement.
The Laundries has always denied any knowledge of Ms. Petito’s death. Her remains were found on September 19.
Matt Luka, the laundromat’s attorney, argued that the parents had no duty or obligation to speak to the police and were simply exercising their constitutional right to silence.
Sarasota County Circuit Court Judge Carroll has said he will rule in writing on whether Petito’s civil suit can proceed to trial in the next two weeks.
A jury in Virginia awarded Ms Heard $2m (£1.6m) at the conclusion of her libel trial in June, while Mr Depp was awarded the much larger amount of $15m (£12m). ).
Ms. Petito and Laundrie set out in their motorhome on a cross-country road trip in July 2021 and had been documenting their travels on YouTube.
On September 1, Laundrie returned to his parents’ house alone.
Ms. Petito’s parents reported her missing on 9/11 after they were unable to contact her and Laundrie refused to say where she was.
Laundrie went on the run days later with her family, telling police she was headed to the nature reserve near her home.
On September 19, Ms. Petito’s remains were found in a Wyoming national park and her autopsy confirmed that she had been strangled to death.
Weeks later, on October 20, Laundrie’s remains were found inside the Florida reservation.
He died by suicide of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
In a notebook found with his remains, he confessed to murdering his girlfriend.